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A Very Short Introduction to

Bicycle Camping in Hungary

Grace Newhaven  2016 bikefishATiinet.net.au 2016/Dec 24

Before you go :

·         A tent that blends into the landscape is very useful !

·         Make a Google map of your proposed journey ( it’s Shareable via www) to plan & calculate distances. Consider a Google plan as well ( also to Share)

·         Download an “off line” e/map and experiment with it. Get a good translation app.

·         Get Google codes if you want to use other computers besides your own.

·         Source a useful adapter, with USB port(s).

Roads & Traffic : Rural minor roads were generally pleasant and are well surfaced tho relatively narrow, and there may be severe subsidence at the edges, and only rarely is there a fog line and sealed shoulder. Hungarian motor traffic is courteous by Australian standards. On-road signage is OK, though not on a numerical system, but usually easy to follow. The landscape is often very attractive, with small traditional villages at easy intervals. However, approaching Budapest from the North( as we did), the supposed “Eurovelo” bicycle route was just the main, very busy highway, quite frightening.

Maps: Paper road maps are available, but I recommend “Pocket Earth” or similar off-line maps as well ( some are free). Some of these will show bicycle friendly roads and paths, and can calculate and display a specific bicycle route to your destinations. Tourist information offices are not common in HU, but may provide some useful local maps. Veloroute 6 crosses Hungary North/South; but VR6 was not consistently signed, and was very scary entering Budapest from the North, with heavy, fast traffic ( the Danube bike tour companies carry their customers by boat into Budapest !)

Water: There is safe, drinkable tap water everywhere in Hungary. You can also buy bottled water everywhere, if you are prepared to waste the plastic bottles. Generally, it can be a problem trying to find a tap outside ( ie accessible) : parks and private gardens don’t have them. You can ask for water in a bar or café, and cemeteries are good too. It will be useful for overnight camping to have a wine cask bladder or similar bulk container. If you are lucky, you may see a working fountain, or locals will show you to a spring that they use themselves. However you go, be careful not to run out.   

Food : Food in Hungary is adequate if without the full variety of Western Europe, but various and usually delicious ( and especially spicy). Most villages have a tiny shop – not always obvious – and medium size towns have small grocery stores, with large Western style supermarkets in cities. Supermarkets  sell everything necessary and are open long hours, but closed on Sundays, so be prepared. Bread shops may open on Sunday mornings. Petrol stations may be open for food – and even alcohol- on Sundays. Food is generally much cheaper than in Australia (despite 27 % GST) but of a slightly better quality and variety, sometimes with “bio” [ organic] options. There is a wide variety of delicious breads, as well as a huge assortment of processed meats and sausages – some very artificial looking ! Alcohol is very cheap and easy to find; there are deposits on glass beer bottle, but not on plastic bottles.  Bottles are returned at the point-of-sale. Even cheap beer is very good, and you can try the cheap wine. The Aussie stubby holder neoprene jackets are unknown in Europe, you may want to take one, as you will sometimes see cold beer for sale in shops, tho rarely. Fuel alcohol (“denaturált szesz”) is around 3 Euro /litre at hardware shops eg OBI. Shop staff are usually friendly, and English is sometimes spoken shyly,  but it will help to have a little Hungarian : “Nem beszélek magyarul”   [ I don’t speak Hungarian] is useful. Market stalls and roadside vendors are also useful for small quantities of fruits and vegetables. The very cheapest restaurant meals would less than~ €6.00, with very cheap drinks prices ( compared to Australia).

Camping : In my experience there was plenty of accessible, green, public space in forests, reserves etc. With a small, discrete tent, you should have no problems. There are commercial Camping  Grounds in many towns ( but not all), charging from E6.00 to €12.00 or more for a single camper. These are marked on maps, but it may be hard to find one for every night without a lot of planning. Some have WiFi, of variable quality, for an extra charge, sometimes expensive. These campsites cater for motor travelers on long stays, rather than overnight cyclists, and are sometimes about as attractive as used car yards. But you can get a shower and wash your clothes, and perhaps charge your device. Youth Hostels are expensive !  In Budapest, the small “ Biker Camp” provides a very pleasant, car-free atmosphere for cyclists.   

Trains : Express trains are not bicycle-friendly. However, local or “regional” trains are generally much easier with a bike, as well as cheaper. Ask for any “special” prices, particularly at week ends and “off peak”. While some carriages are readily accessible with a heavily loaded bike, some are not - a few carriages have high steps and narrow doorways- and you may need to ask a fellow passenger for help, especially if you have to make a tight connection, which can be common. Bikes may also travel on some tram systems. Be careful however not to buy a ticket that crosses an international border, unless you want to spend too much!  Staff are also helpful and usually speak some English. Booking offices at major stations are also generally helpful but English is not readily understood

Internet & WiFi : WiFi is useful, if and when it’s available, ( eg at MacDonald’s), but having connectivity in “real time”, especially from your “wild” campsite, is so useful it’s practically indispensable. I recommend having a local pre-paid SIM card. Be aware too that Hungary keyboards may be difficult for people not accustomed to their layout. FaceBook Messenger is quite useful, too. Internet cafes are no longer common, so your own device is almost indispensable. To access your Google or Hotmail accounts on devices besides your own , you need to make arrangements before you leave home to carry printed “security codes” with you.

Misc :

Websites :

BikerCamp : http://www.bikercamp.hu/

Eurovelo Route 6( Hungary) : http://www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos/eurovelo-6/les-etapes/wien-budapest

Distance calculator : www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between.htm /

An encyclopedic,private site :www.cycletourer.co.uk/

 

Glossary

English

Hungarian

Beer

 

Bicycle

 

Bread

 

Cheese

 

Fruit

 

Map

 

Meat

 

Milk

 

Vegetable

 

Water

 

Wine